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Saving on Prescription Drugs

In 2019, Governor Tim Walz signed legislation enacted by the Minnesota Legislature, directing the Board of Pharmacy to provide information useful to individuals who are attempting to purchase prescription drugs at lower costs. The Governor, the Legislature, and the Board recognize that many residents of Minnesota are having a difficult time affording the prescription drugs that they need to treat serious medical conditions. Information provided on this web page will help residents purchase prescription drugs at a lower cost. Not every suggestion offered will help every resident, but every suggestion may help at least some individuals.

This page will be periodically updated. The inclusion of an organization on this website is not an endorsement by the Board. Other websites offer similar services as the ones described below. The Board is not responsible for the content of the websites to which it is providing links. However, if you have issues or concerns with a business or organization that is included on this web page, please share them by sending an email to:

Minnesota Insulin Safety Net Program

In 2020, Governor Tim Walz signed legislation, enacted by the Minnesota Legislature, that creates a new insulin safety net program. The law requires insulin manufacturers to make insulin available to individuals in urgent need of insulin or who need access to insulin at an affordable cost. Detailed information about the program can be found on the Board’s Minnesota Insulin Safety Net Program web page.

Additional information is available at MNInsulin on July 1, 2020. This website is managed by MNSure.

Minnesota Board on Aging Prescription Help Page

The Minnesota Board on Aging (MBA) consists of 25 members appointed by the governor. It receives administrative services through the Minnesota Department of Human Services. MBA is a gateway to services for Minnesota seniors and their families.

It has a Prescription Help Page. MBA advises that individuals who need assistance in obtaining lower cost prescription drugs can:
  • Call the Senior LinkAge Line®, a one stop shop for Minnesota seniors at 1-800-333-2433
  • Find information at
    • Using the search field that asks “What are you looking for”, type in “prescription support service” for a list of links to organizations that may be of assistance. Some of those organizations are also listed on this web page.

Pharmaceutical Manufacturer Patient Assistance Program

Many pharmaceutical manufacturers have programs that assist patients by allowing them to buy prescription drugs at reduced prices. For some of the programs, qualified individuals can obtain the medications for free. The following organizations compile information about such programs;

  • RxAssist offers a “comprehensive database of these patient assistance programs, as well as practical tools, news, and articles so that health care professionals and patients can find the information they need.”
    • The RxAssist website has sections for health care practitioners and for the public.
    • Both sections allow a user to search for patient assistance programs by either drug name or company name.
    • The website has a coupon that can be printed out and used at pharmacies to obtain discounts of “up to 85%.”

  • The United States Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has information on its website about pharmaceutical manufacturer patient assistance programs. This website allows the user to search for such programs by drug name.

  • "PhRMA’s Medicine Assistance Tool (MAT) is a search engine designed to help patients, caregivers, and health care providers learn more about the resources available through the various biopharmaceutical industry programs. MAT is not its own patient assistance program, but rather a search engine for many of the patient assistance resources that the biopharmaceutical industry offers.”

  • RxHope allows patients to search by medication to determine if a patient assistance program is available for that drug. It also helps prescribers and their staff with the application process. (Many such programs require the prescriber to complete the application process on behalf of the and patient.)

Government-Funded Programs

There are several government-funded programs that help qualified individuals pay for health services, including prescription drugs. Here are links to the pages where you can find additional information:

  • Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people age 65 or older; people under age 65 with certain disabilities; people of all ages with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant).
    • Medicare helps pay for prescription drugs in inpatient settings such as hospitals and nursing homes. It also pays for prescriptions dispensed by pharmacies through Medicare Part D. There are deductibles and copays.
    • Medicare beneficiaries can qualify for Extra Help with their Medicare prescription drug plan costs. The Extra Help is estimated to be worth about $4,900 per year. To qualify for the Extra Help, a person must be receiving Medicare, have limited resources and income, and reside in one of the 50 States or the District of Columbia. Additional information can be found here.

  • Medicaid is the joint federal-state health insurance program for low income individuals. In Minnesota Medicaid is called Medical Assistance. The program is managed by the Minnesota Department of Human Services. (DHS)
  • MinnesotaCare is a state-funded health care program for Minnesotans with low incomes. It is managed by DHS. Enrollees get health care services through a private sector health plan. You can choose your health plan from those serving MinnesotaCare enrollees in your county.
  • Minnesota AIDS Drug Assistance Program is a program that provides HIV-related medications to people living in Minnesota with HIV. These medications treat HIV disease or conditions associated with HIV. This program may help you if you:
  • Veteran’s Health Administration is a program for veterans of the United States military branches that may be able to get VA health care benefits if they served in the active military, naval, or air service and didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge. More information on eligibility can be found here.

Federal 340B Program

The 340B Program is administered by the Health Resources & Services Administration of the federal Dept. of Health and Human Services. Qualified organizations can purchase drugs at substantially lower prices (because manufacturers participating in Medicaid agree to sell outpatient drugs to covered entities at those lower prices). Those organizations can only administer or dispense drugs to their patients (and in some cases, their employees).

Tips for Reducing Prescription Drug Costs

  • Use generic medications whenever possible.
    • Many drugs are available in both brand name and generic versions. For most drugs, the generic version contains the same drug and works just as well as the brand name version. (Manufacturers must prove a generic product is just as good as the brand name version by submitting test results to the Food and Drug Administration.) Some generic drugs are as much as 90% cheaper than the brand name version.
      • In Minnesota, pharmacists can switch to the generic version without calling the prescriber – unless the prescriber has indicated that the prescription must be dispensed as written.

  • Discuss alternatives with your prescriber or your pharmacist.
    Your prescriber may be able to switch you to an equally effective but cheaper drug. In this case, the alternative drug is not a generic equivalent, but it may still be effective for the condition being treated.
    • Your pharmacist may be able to make such a recommendation to your prescriber - but can’t switch to the alternative drug without the prescriber’s permission.
    • Some pharmacists offer a service known as medication therapy management (MTM). Fees for this service are sometimes covered by health insurance plans. MTM involves the pharmacist doing a comprehensive assessment of your medications to try to identify potential problems. For example, the pharmacists may identify drugs that you can safely stop taking.
  • Use a higher dose.
    Some drugs come in several strengths and, sometimes, a higher strength tablet can be easily split in two. In many cases, it is cheaper per dose to buy the higher strength tablet and split it in two. For example, if you take a 10mg tablet but a 20mg tablet is also available, buying 15 of the 20mg tablets and splitting them in half may be cheaper than buying 30 of the 10mg tablets. Do not do this without consulting your prescriber or pharmacist because some tablets should not be split (for example extended-release tablets can’t always be safely split).

  • Get a larger supply.
    • If you pay cash for a prescription that you take on a long-term basis, it may be cheaper to get a 90-day supply, rather than getting 30-days at a time. That is because pharmacies often give a discount on larger day supplies.
    • If you have drug insurance, some insurers will allow you to get a 90-day supply for a lower copay than you would pay if you picked up 30-day supplies and paid three copays.

  • Shop around.
    • If you have insurance that covers drugs, you will probably pay the same copay amount at any pharmacy that is part of the insurer’s network of pharmacies. But if a pharmacy is not in that network, you may have to pay a much higher price. So, make sure that the pharmacy that will be filling your prescription is in your insurer’s network.
    • If you have no insurance drug coverage, compare the prices that pharmacies charge. Medication prices can vary considerably from pharmacy-to-pharmacy. Some websites allow consumers to do comparison shopping.
      • NeedyMeds has a Drug Pricing Calculator that you can use to compare prices for medications to find the best price options in your area using the NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card.
    • It is normally best to get all your prescriptions filled at one pharmacy – so the pharmacist can better evaluate your medication therapy. If you do fill prescriptions at more than one pharmacy, make sure each pharmacist knows all the medications that you are taking.

Other Resources

  • NeedyMeds. NeedyMeds is a 501(c)(3) national non-profit that connects people to programs that will help them afford their medications and other healthcare costs. NeedyMeds achieves its mission by providing information on healthcare programs, offering direct assistance, and facilitating programs.

  • Benefits Checkup. The National Council on Aging provides this service to seniors with limited incomes so they can search for help with medicines, health care, rent, and other needs.

  • Free Clinic Directory. This Web site provides information about free or low-cost clinics located throughout Minnesota, by county. Many of the clinics assist patients in obtaining free or low-cost medications.
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